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Bingo Bites: Merkley & Schnarr Bios, Fans Speak Out & Thunder Updates

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Some profiles on the new additions for Binghamton, plus fans speak out on Twitter while Tracey Lake informs us about the struggles that have now trickled down to the ECHL level

Arizona Coyotes v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Following the sequence of events that unfolded involving the Taylor Hall trade that occurred between the NJDevils and Phoenix Coyotes on Monday, the Tucson Roadrunners traded away prospect forwards Nick Merkley and Nate Schnarr for Blake Speers as part of the package.

Both players should report to Binghamton at some point this week. What is exciting is new blood that carries new beginnings, as the BDevils have had their share of failures in the past. I took a gander of the two newcomers and ran a short bio on who they are before they take the ice here in Bingo.

Comings & Goings

Nick Merkley

A former 1st Round pick (30th overall) by the Arizona Coyotes in 2015, injuries have taken a toll (four if you are counting) as the 22-year-old right-winger missed nearly nine months of action with his latest following a torn ACL that sidelined him in the early part of 2018.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Arizona Coyotes Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Sounds familiar? As the same injury happened to Brandon Gignac a few years ago. The big question I have, is he arriving here as damaged goods limiting his potential?

A product of Calgary, ALTA, Merkley is a proven point producer. In his previous two seasons, he combined for 28 goals, 45 assists in 83 games during the 2017-’19 campaigns including one appearance for the Coyotes in Dec of 2017.

Merkley has 3 goals along with 13 assists in 26 games this season for the Tucson Roadrunners during his third year in the pros. The 5’ 11”, 192 lbs. forward was a former teammate of current BDevils’ defenseman Dakota Mermis, who served as Captain for the Roadrunners at the time.

This is one observation from a contributor of DobblerProspects back in April of 2019.

After a midseason offensive slump that saw Merkley go 27 games without a goal, the winger has gotten hot again as he helps Tucson try to get into the playoff’s. He has five points in his last four games, including a hat trick in what is almost must win games for the Roadrunners to get into the playoff’s. Returning from major knee surgery, it’s been an adjustment for Merkley this year but he’s still put up 30 points in 41 games so far. ~ Keith Duggan

I would pencil him in taking Michael McLeod’s spot between Chris Conner and Nathan Bastain on the second line as McLeod looks to finally stick with the big club. No need to fuss with the top line while producing the majority of the offense.

Nate Schnarr

The 20-year-old rookie was drafted in the 3rd Round (75th overall) in 2017 by the Arizona Coyotes and has recorded a goal and eight assists in 22 games for the Tucson Roadrunners.

Guelph Storm v London Knights Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The 6’ 3”, 185lb forward from Waterloo, ONT has had some recent success in leading the Guelph Storm to the OHL Championship in 2018-’19. Schnarr had 34 goals, 68 assists for a team-leading 102 points during the regular season. His 19 points (8 goals and 11 helpers) in 24 playoff contests tied him with Dmitri Samorukov for 7th best on the roster.

During his time with the Guelph Storm there was much praise by his coach and GM George Burnett;

“I would say that Nate is one of the most improved players in the league this year,” said coach and GM George Burnett. “He’s worked hard and had a (healthy) summer to prepare. You like to see the guys that put the work in be rewarded and he’s had a real consistent strong year for us regardless of who he has played with.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise is how he got to 100 points. Before this season, his hallmark was scoring goals but this season he has 68 assists, second only to league leader Morgan Frost in Sault Ste. Marie.

“He’s very smart,” said the coach. “We see him as a finisher but what he has done is generate a lot of chances, whether they are great passes or whether he’s shooting the puck (creating) rebounds and opportunities for other guys to finish as well. He could very well lead the league in assists.” March of 2019 ~ Paul Osborne covers the Guelph Storm for the Guelph Mercury Tribune

I think there will be some competition in the bottom six with Schnarr in the mix for the BDevils, at least in the beginning to access his value on where he would eventually find himself in the line-up.

Blake Speers

Gone is forward Blake Speers

The Sault Ste. Marie ONT native played in 10 games with only an assist to his credit for the BDevils this season. As a comparison, Speers scored 15 goals and 12 assists in 105 games during that same stretch as Merkley and Schnarr for Tucson.

Photo Credit: JustSports Photography / Binghamton Devils

Speers was a 3rd Round (67th overall) pick by the New Jersey Devils in 2015 but has never materialized in what has been a disappointing era for the 22-year-old. He could benefit from a fresh start out west as Speers has mostly spent his time watching from the stands for the BDevils. I wish you well Mr. Speers.

Fans Speak Out

Recently the Devils’ Organization seemed to have hopefully turned the tide as both clubs ended losing streaks. Binghamton won last Saturday night over Utica to end theirs at eight games while the parent club defeated the Coyotes to stop their slide at seven, also on Saturday.

I turned to the fans on Twitter, questioning what the problem entails. As a losing atmosphere that has manifested within the organization and here are some of the responses.


Perhaps this one sums it up, but not before some criticism with the following opinions after.

But overall, it’s been a major disappointment for the fan base.

Same ol’, same ol’.

When there is a lack of development, there are set-backs.

Hopefully not mistaken.


There were more opinions, but with the limited space allowed, I think the point has come clean. Something needs to happen to help right the ship within the organization. With the aftermath of the Taylor Hall trade, there appears help is coming our way, which could be as a sign things are progressing well. At least one would hope.

Tracey’s Updates From Adirondack

It’s been a struggle for the Adirondack Thunder as the month of December rolls on.

Since the last update, the team has gone 1-3-2-1, and are winless in their last 6 (0-3-2-1). After a 5-3 loss in Newfoundland on Tuesday night, the Thunder are 11-12-2-3 with 27 points, and sit in fourth place in the North Division.

Injuries and recalls to the AHL have contributed to the team’s recent slump. Forward Hayden Verbeek, who had been leading the team in scoring, was recalled to Laval on December 5th with teammate James Phelan joining him on a PTO a week later. Defenseman Kelly Summers joined Binghamton for his second stint of the season on December 6th. Veterans Conor Riley and Michael Sdao remain out of the lineup due to injuries.

After tonight’s rematch in St. John’s, the team will close out 2019 with 5 of their next 7 games in Glens Falls, including two games against Maine on Friday and Saturday prior to the Christmas break.

From ECHL to the NHL

On Friday, goaltender Evan Cormier was in net for the Thunder, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-1 loss to Allen. 24 hours later, he was in Arizona backing up Mackenzie Blackwood in a 2-1 New Jersey win after Louis Domingue went on IR.

Photo courtesy of Tracey Lake

With his first callup to the parent Devils, Cormier became the tenth player to play in Adirondack and get a callup to the NHL since the ECHL came to Glens Falls in 2015. Former Devil netminder Scott Wedgewood was the first to pull off the feat, as he appeared in one game for the Thunder in early December 2015 while rehabbing an ankle injury, then made his NHL debut three months later. The other players on the list? Blackwood, Josh Jacobs (1 game with the Thunder in 2016-17), Colton White, Ken Appleby, Cam Johnson, Pierre-Luc Leblond (his one night only appearance out of retirement in 2017-18 gets him on the list), Kent Simpson (one appearance for Chicago in 13-14 before coming to Glens Falls in 15-16 with the Calgary affiliation) and Ryan Lomberg (Calgary prospect).

Catching Up With…

Checking in with some former Thunder players who also spent time in Binghamton:

  • Ken Appleby/Cam Johnson: Appleby and Johnson are the current tandem for the Florida Everblades. Appleby is 10-3-2 with a 2.48 GAA and .906 save percentage in 19 appearances, while Johnson is 5-4-0 with a 2.50 GAA and .914 save percentage in 11 games. Both goaltenders rank in the top 10 among ECHL goalies in GAA, while Appleby is tied for first in wins.
  • Desmond Bergin: After a successful 2018-19 season that saw him join 5 AHL teams on professional tryouts—including a 10-game stint in Binghamton—Bergin has hung up his skates.
  • John Edwardh: After signing as a free agent with the Everblades during the summer, Edwardh was dealt to Cincinnati just before the regular season. In 22 games for the Cyclones, he has 7 goals and 7 assists.
  • Alex Sakellaropoulos: Filled in as a backup in Binghamton but became more famous for his name, Sakellaropoulos has split this season between Norfolk and Rapid City, where in 8 combined games he is 2-5-0 with a 3.77 GAA and .888 save percentage.
  • Brian Ward: Ward is currently in Ireland with the EIHL’s Belfast Giants. He has 8 goals and 15 assists in 24 games.

Latest Stats:

  • Eamon McAdam (AHL deal): McAdam is 6-8-0 with a 3.62 GAA and .885 save percentage. He has one win in his last four starts, a 3-2 victory in Toledo on December 4th.
  • Colby Sissons (ELC): Sissons has 2 goals and 11 assists in 22 games, leading all Thunder defensemen in scoring. He had a goal and 3 assists in a 7-6 shootout loss to Allen on Saturday afternoon.
Photo courtesy of Tracey Lake
  • Ara Nazarian (AHL deal): Nazarian has 4 goals and 10 assists in 22 games and leads all Thunder skaters with a +8. He has been out of the lineup since December 7th due to injury.
  • Nikita Popugaev (AHL deal): Popugaev has 3 goals and 11 assists in 22 games. He had three assists in Adirondack’s 5-4 overtime loss to Maine on December 6th.
  • Matt Salhany (camp invite): Salhany has 8 goals and 10 assists in 27 games. He has three goals and four assists in his last seven games, including a 3-point outing (1 G, 2 A) against Allen on Saturday.
  • James Henry (camp invite): The captain has 5 goals and 10 assists in 24 games.
  • Charlie Curti (camp invite): Curti has 5 goals and 7 assists in 22 games. He had a career high 4 points (1 G, 3 A) against Allen on Saturday.
  • Ryan Walker (camp invite): Walker has 4 goals and 4 assists in 20 games.
  • Michael Sdao (camp invite): Sdao remains out of the lineup due to injury.

Monologue

Impressive, but at the same time, I remain guarded. AHL team needs help while the parent club did indeed react. The efforts were there, but you be the judge with the players involved.

However, with previous parental organizations, after a trade, we were on an island on numerous occasions. The club is owned by the NJDevils and is run by current GM Tom Fitzgerald. Although it does reflect on the standings in my opinion, I do appreciate the ongoing efforts in an attempt to turn this franchise into a winning culture. Time will tell.

One more quick note..

As far as the ECHL Devils’ team in Glens Falls, Tracey Lake provides a really, solid coverage that keeps the faithful engaged, including myself. Thank you for your contributions my friend!

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays! We will see you on the flip side!